Saturday, February 26, 2011

Barry Lyndon on Irish Ancestry

I presume that there is no gentleman in Europe that has not heard of the house of Barry of Barrogue, of the kingdom of Ireland, than which as more famous name is not to be found in Gwillim or D'Hozler; and though, as a man of the world; I have learned to despise heartily the claims of some pretenders to high birth who have no more genealogy than the lacquey who cleans my boots, and though I laugh to utter scorn the boasting of many of my countrymen, who are all for descending from kings of Ireland, and talk of a domain no bigger than would feed a pig as if it were a principality; yet truth compels me to assert that my family was the noblest of the island, and, perhaps, of the universal world;  while heir possessions, now insignificant, and torn from us by war, by treachery,by the loss of time, by ancestral extravagance, by adhesion to the old  faith and monarch, were formerly prodigious,and embraced many counties, at a time when Ireland was vastly more prosperous than now.  I would assume the Irish crown over my coat-of-arms, but that there are so many silly pretenders to that distinction who bear it and render it common.
 --William Makepeace Thackery, Barry Lyndon, 
Ch. 1, page 1 (Penguin, 1975)

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